Monday, March 29, 2010

More on "Angry Brighid."

A friend made me realize that I didn't share my own opinions about the house fire incident referenced in my recent book review of The Rites of Brigid Goddess and Saint.  Here's what I wrote:

    I was both intrigued and encouraged to read about Brighid’s darker side.  So many modern Pagan books focus on her midwifery and healing, as well as her creative powers.  They forget that there is a darker side to such things – creativity requires the transformation and destruction of something else.  A healer must eventually decide when someone is beyond healing.  Women can die in childbirth. Blacksmithing is extremely dangerous.  The fire that warms the home can just as easily destroy it.  It could be argued that some of these “darker” sides were embraced by The Morrigan or even the Cailleach (hag), but there is a lot of cultural evidence to show that people were aware of Brighid’s jealous side.  There was a belief that Brighid could ignore you on Imbolc, which was seen as a very bad sign for the family and the harvest.  (Brighid has some very strong connections to fertility.)  There was a lot of animal sacrifice in her honor, even in modern Christian times.  Much of it involved chickens.  There were also a lot of vegetable sacrifices made in her honor.  There was even a belief that Brighid had/could set peoples’ homes on fire.  This backs up some UPG experienced by a grove member whose friend said Brighid was weak compared to the Morrigan.  He returned to his home to find it ablaze!  I myself have experienced Brighid’s jealousy, though not in a violent way.  For a Wiccan Drawing-Down ceremony I attended, it was decided that the group would call to Freyja.  During meditation, Brighid appeared to me, felt as if she was holding me, and I heard her voice say “mine.”  Obviously I was not meant to be Freyja’s vessel! 
            Do I think Brighid is quite as vengeful these days?  While the person whose house burned down will probably never take Brighid lightly again, I get the impression, through my studies and personal experiences, that most Gods are not as fierce as they used to be.  This has nothing to do with an inability to be hostile as I firmly believe they are more powerful than us and could do quite a bit of damage if they wanted.  But I believe that the Gods have evolved socially, like us.  I also think they realize that burning everyone’s house down is not a good way to keep up good relations.  That said, I also think it’s possible for a God to have a moment of passion or extreme anger.  It can happen to people, and the Gods are known for being hot headed! 

So, do I believe Brighid set the man's house on fire?  Well, let me say that I believe she is fully capable of it!  But did she?  I don't know, honestly.  All I can say is that were I him, I would be pissed if it were!  My friend mentioned that such thinking is scapegoating, and I'm inclined to agree with him for the most part. I can't really rule out that it wasn't Brighid, but if it were me and all the omens pointed to yes, I would feel so betrayed.  Granted, I wouldn't say one Goddess was better or more powerful that another.  At the same time, I would like to believe that the Gods, especially the Irish Gods (who have never been known for the jealousy exhibited by the Greek pantheon), have grown beyond petty things like that.  Well, petty is not really the best word...  I mean, that was a man's home.  A house fire is devastating.  I responded to my friend by admitting that I actually thought of the word "scapegoat" while typing this entry but that I didn't want to veer too far from my book review.  In retrospect, I should have done a footnote.  The way I see it (and I don't know his side of the story), the man was rude enough to insult the Goddess of the hearth fire that he probably has little respect for fire in general.  He probably made some stupid mistake.  It's a shame, that's for sure, and the insult was probably just a coincidence.  All the same, I was intrigued to see a belief that it could happen in Irish folklore.  (I still stand by my statement that Brighid has a dark side - but by dark I never meant evil.  If it came off that way, it's entirely not what I meant.  By dark I meant destructive.  It's only natural!)

Although I don't believe the Gods are all-knowing, I do believe that they are smarter than us, so they have likely figured out that bad press makes them look bad and lose "friends."  I also think some Gods really enjoy interacting with humans and so don't want to lose our love.  They probably understand why we've turned back to them after Christianity and realize that it is better to be loved and respected rather than feared and hated.

Perhaps that's only my Neo-Pagan showing and I'm really a delusion fluffy twit, but part of adopting reconstructionists methodologies is being sensitive to how the religion and the spirits have evolved with time.  Aside from the little show of possession by Brighid (which I don't mind because a) it's not been excessive and b) I have jealousy and possessive issues myself so I commiserate), the Tuatha de Dannan have been wonderful to me.  I have a great and growing relationship with them and part of what I love is the reality of personal responsibility.  I can ask for their blessing, advice, or inspiration, maybe even to borrow a bit of their magic, but in the end it's up to me to take the initiative and direct it.  If I screw up, the Gods (my patrons, at least) are sympathetic and, often, jocular about it.

I have forgotten to keep the fame twice.  Each time, I apologize and let Brighid know that it wasn't on purpose.  She seems fine with it.  She's forgiving.  At least she has been to me.

EDIT:  I also want to add that, if I were a God, I would have so many other more important things to worry/get angry about other than a snide comment.   For example, greedy corporations that pollute the planet.  Do I believe that the Gods should go postal on them?  Oh, you betcha.  Maybe not burn-their-house-down postal, but if anyone deserves the so-called "clue-by-four," it's people like that!

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